5. Choosing Between Face-To-Face and Online Teaching on Campus
5.2. Analyse the Resources Available
There is one more consideration besides the type of learners, the overall teaching method, and making decisions based on pedagogical grounds, and that is to consider the resources available. (This should really be Step 4, before allocating learning objectives to different modes, but it will be difficult to avoid in any case.).
The Time of the Instructor
In particular, the key resource is the time of the teacher or instructor. Careful consideration is needed about how best to spend the limited time available to an instructor. It may be all very well to identify a series of videos as the best way to capture some of the procedures for blood testing, but if these videos do not already exist in a format that can be freely used, shooting video specially for this one course may not be justified, in terms of either the time, the instructor would need to spend on video production, or the costs of making the videos with a professional crew.
Time to learn how to do online teaching is especially important. There is a steep learning curve and the first time will take much longer than subsequent online courses. The institution should offer some form of training or professional development for instructors thinking of moving online or into blended learning. Ideally, instructors should get some release time (up to one semester from one class) in order to do the design and preparation for an online course, or a re-designed hybrid course. This however is not always possible, but one thing we do know. The instructor workload is a function of course design. Well-designed online courses should require less rather than more work from an instructor.
Learning Technology Support Staff
If your institution has a service unit for faculty development and training, instructional designers, and web designers for supporting teaching, use them. Such staff is often qualified in both educational sciences and computer technology. They have unique knowledge and skills that can make your life much easier when teaching online.
The availability and skill level of learning technology support from the institution is a critical factor. Can you get the support of an instructional designer and media producers? If not, it is likely that much more will be done face-to-face than online, unless you are already very experienced in online learning.
Readily Available Technology
Most institutions now have a learning management system such as Blackboard or Moodle, or a lecture capture system for recording lessons. But increasingly, instructors will need access to media producers who can create videos, digital graphics, animations, simulations, web sites, and access to blog and wiki software. Without access to such technology support, instructors are more likely to fall back on tried and true classroom teaching.
Colleagues Experienced in Blended and Online Learning
It really helps if there are experienced colleagues in the department who understand the subject discipline and have done some online teaching. They will perhaps even have some materials already developed, such as graphics, that they will be willing to share.
Are there resources available to buy you out for one semester to spend time on course design? Many institutions have development funds for innovative teaching and learning, and there may be external grants for creating new open educational resources, for instance. This will increase the practicality and hence the likelihood of more of the teaching moving online.
We shall see that as more and more learning material becomes available as open educational resources, teachers and instructors will be freed up from mainly content presentation to focusing on more interaction with students, both online and face to face. However, although open educational resources are becoming increasingly available, they may not exist in the topics required or they may not be of adequate quality in terms of either content or production standards.
The extent to which these resources are available will help inform you on the extent to which you will be able to go online and meet quality standards. In particular, you should think twice about going online if none of the resources listed above is going to be available to you.